Tel Aviv – Jaffa
Tel Aviv is Israel’s first modern city, and certainly its most secular. On the Sabbath – known as Shabbat – while Orthodox Jews are at prayer, Tel Aviv’s young fashion victims are out and about. Clubs here don’t even begin to get going much before one in the morning, and then they’re packed. It’s something of a biggest is best culture in Tel Aviv – the central bus station in Tel Aviv is reputedly the biggest bus station in the entire world, and the city is also home to a huge 6 floor shopping mall – truly a place to ‘shop til you drop’.
It’s a modern city, sprung up from sand dunes in the last century. It is Israel’s centre for business, culture and nightlife. With flash hotels, good weather and pristine beaches it is an all year round tourist destination. It is home to 40% of Israel’s 5 million population, in and around the city and suburbs. It is the northern most part of the greater metropolis of Tel Aviv-Jaffa as the two cities were combined in the 1950’s, and represents the alternative to ancient Jaffa, full of modern architecture and modern history, colour, and city bustle.
Jaffa is where Christian civilisation began, the site of God’s “great flood”, and where Noah’s son Japheth settled, naming it “Jaffa”, Hebrew for beautiful. It is a biblical city, one of the oldest in the world, and an early and important trading point for the Mediterranean. The architecture of Old Jaffa was reconstructed in the 1960’s, and it is the home to bustling fish restaurants provided for by local fishermen, artists quarters and galleries, a stunning flea market, tourism and nightlife and a composite community with many immigrants from North Africa and Central Europe. If you’re interested in the local history, you’d be well advised to visit the Jaffa Museum of Antiquities, with artefacts of recent digs.
In Tel Aviv the attractions are entirely modern, you can even visit the Wax Museum with models of Michael Jackson amongst others! If you’re interested in a holiday with a combination of sight seeing, museums and attractions coupled with sandy beaches, Tel Aviv-Jaffa is a great place to touch down.
Jerusalem has been fought over for the last three thousand years – Egyptians, Persians, Romans, Crusaders, Marmelukes, Turks, British, Jordanians and now Israelis have all laid claim to theGolden City, also known as The Eternal City and the City of David. As you would expect of one of the world’s oldest and most turbulent cities, it is a wealth of every changing history, battles and many reigning conquerors. Whatever religious sides of Jerusalem you wish to explore there is plenty to see and do, with ancient market places, shrines, mosques, churches and ruins. It is a city in which the rhythm of the city is dictated by prayer and ritual.
Jerusalem is divided into four parts; the new city in the west, West Jerusalem in the south west and south, East Jerusalem and at its heart, the Old City, a collection of bazaar and sacred shrines. There are four distinct quarters in the Old City – Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Armenian. The Old City is heavily occupied by the Jewish Quarter, which hosts the Temple Mount and theWeeping Wall, a Mecca for Judaism. The Old City streets in the Arab quarter can sometimes be unnerving for women after dark, so you should always be a little wary. The Dome of the Rock, The City of David excavations and the Mount of Olives are all classic places to visit in the Old City.
The New City was a creation of the 20th century, rebuilding stinking and rotting old Jerusalem when the Jews returned to Zion. Now it’s a relatively luxurious and bold modern city. Whilst not as happening as Tel-Aviv, there’s plenty of cultural life to explore here.
Jerusalem is now the highly disputed capital of Israel. The eastern part of the city was captured from Jordan in 1967.
In the hills of Judea, a little south from Bethlehem, lies Hebron, a place of rich history and progressive farming community, famed for its peaches. Hebron has long been a centre of fierce opposition to the occupation. The troubles mean that few travellers come here. But if you do, you’ll find the locals surprisingly friendly, given the tension in the air. There is nowhere for travellers to stay in Hebron, and before visiting you should always check on the current political climate. TheIntafada is the name given to the uprising that began in 1987 when some Palestinians were believed to have been deliberately killed by a Jewish motorist. Towns like Hebron are still affected by strikes, curfews, military roadblocks, and even riots. It’s best not to talk politics if you get invited into a local discussion or home.
The Hebron Casbah is a great place to meander and pick up artisan crafts like olivewood sculpture and colourful blown glass.
The city boasts several religious sites; Tomb of Joseph, and the Oak of Abraham where Abraham was visited by three angels telling him of Isaac’s birth.
Between Hebron and the biblical town of Bethlehem lives the Kfar Hetzion Kibbutzi, an agricultural-religious community established after the original Kibbutz was wiped out during the 1948 War of Independence, and stands as a symbol of Jewish courage.
Like many Arab towns, Al Arish comes to life at night. In the coolness of the evening the streets fill with Egyptians trading, eating and just going places. Apart from shopping, playing chess and smoking, sheeshas are the only real nightlife pursuits. Although women are visible in the crowded streets, you’ll never see any in the cafes.